by: Eddie Trapp
It’s amazing how conversation twists and turns, uncovering thousands of topics as men sit in the shade and ponder the world situation. Junior Larkin, Kenneth Gillean, and I put in a hard day at the sawmill last week then sat in the hall way of Kenneth’s shop at Mt. Joy watching the wheat harvest. Dirt daubers flew around looking for a place to put their little mud nests where they would do the most damage. Kenneth noted they began their forays about the middle of May. Questions were raised about the integrity of the little wasps and upon reaching home I went to the trusty internet.
Daub – verb. To coat with soft adhesive matter as to daub a canvas with paint. Dauber – noun. One who daubs. Over the years when wanting to needle various welders folks have accused them of just daubing, or barely attaching two pieces of metal together, especially if it breaks later.
In our area there are only two kinds of dirt daubers with the black and yellow most common. This wasp likes to pack mud in a gun barrel or any small hole it can find and lay its egg. Several times I have had to unstop the little hose that comes from the cooling system on my boat motor. Not all of the daubers are able to find man made holes and must perform as nature intended, making a cylindrical, mud nest stocked with spiders and an egg. Often, several of the cylinders are stacked on top of each other to form a lemon size ball attached to walls or wherever people don’t want them.
Only the female builds the nest and finds food for the young. As many as two dozen spiders are placed in each mud cylinder before the female lays a single egg and seals the tube. These spiders are only paralyzed since they would decompose and be of no nutrition to the larva if killed. When the egg hatches the tiny larva eats to its content. While the young feast on spiders the adults only consume nectar from flowers. There are two generations a year with the second surviving the winter in the nest. It seems to me the wasps really go out of their way to find a manmade hole to deposit the mud and egg. Many times I have had to run a coat hanger down a gun barrel to loosen the mud after I forgot and left the gun out on the porch a day or two. One of these daubers is credited with bringing down Birgenair Flight 301, a Boeing 757 on February 6, 1996 in the Dominican Republic. That must have been an important tube the little wasp found.
Our second kind of dirt dauber is the metallic blue mud dauber. These are not as common in northeast Texas and have a more specialized appetite. They normally select only black widows to place in their nests. Another plus for them is they don’t construct mud nests but only remodel those used by the black and yellow in previous years.
Spring phenomenon number two: Sunday, Jean heard her first “locust” of the year. That’s what we call them but the real name for the noisy insect is the cicada, pronounced suh kay duh. Actually a true locust as mentioned in Bible plagues is a large grasshopper. If you have ever found a snake in your yard, now is the time to become vigilant as they search for cicadas emerging from the ground. They must catch the cicadas before they climb up off the ground. Cottonmouths and other species begin their spring feeding frenzy each year about this time.
Insects are divided into about twenty large groups and the cicada is in the Hemiptera order along with leafhoppers and spittle bugs. 2500 species worldwide. They feed by using their long sharp snout to pierce stems and suck the sap. In many countries they are eaten and the “shell” is used for medicine in China. Cicada comes from Latin and means tree cricket, which adds to confusion since we do have tree crickets in our area. Cicadas have many local names such as dry fly, July fly, July bug, and jar fly. Some tropical species are up to six inches long. Only males make the calls which get up to 120 decibels, placing them among the loudest of insects. The call is loud enough to do permanent damage if the insect is held near the ear. The female deposits eggs underneath the bark of trees and when the eggs hatch, the young drop to the ground and burrow in where they stay several years while feeding on plant roots. The young have strong front legs for digging and have been found down to depths of eight feet. When they are ready they emerge from the ground, climb a tree or other objects, shed their skin and begin the life cycle anew. Watch for the shells on trees, listen for the loud calls, and watch out for snakes feeding on them.
Historian Larry Harmon of Sulphur Springs sends news of dots on snuff bottle bottoms. One place Larry worked put him in contact with tobacco sales representatives. They all said the dots had nothing to do with snuff strength but maybe the place the bottle was made. Larry’s grandmother used peach tree twigs to dip out her snuff and he was the certified twig gatherer. I have decided the dots on snuff bottles have something to do with the secrets of the Masons and that we will never know the real purpose.
May 31 the star Spica is close to the Moon and planet Saturn is a little farther from the Moon along the same line.
A man said he hadn’t spoken to his wife in twelve years. His friend asked him why and he said, “I didn’t want to interrupt her.”
How come some poor people hate rich people but buy lottery tickets?
A “Beware of the Dog” sign hung on the door of a small country store. A man walked in and saw a toothless old hound laying on the floor. Asked if that is the dog to beware of and the store owner said it was. The visitor asked why and the store owner said,” Cause everyone kept tripping over him.”